OSSINING, N.Y. – A new Ossining group wants Latino students to know that higher education is possible and it can be affordable.
Latino U College Access is hosting a special informational meeting designed to teach Spanish-speaking residents in Ossining how to apply for financial aid and bridge the language gap that prevents many students from seeking higher education. The Spanish-only workshop is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at the Ossining Public Library’s Budarz Theater. Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, who launched the non-profit Latino U in November, said the presentation is only the first step of many.
“The process of applying for financial aid, especially for a student whose parents speak limited English, is very challenging,” Buontempo said. “Many people don’t realize how complicated the financial process is and how important that can be for students. We want to clarify that process and work with parents every step of the way to help them apply and qualify for financial aid.”
Saturday's community information session is being offered in collaboration with the Ossining Public Library, Ossining High School and Proyecto Alcance. Felix Flores of Proyecto Alcance said the presentation was “a crucial step” in improving the number of Latino students who go to college.
“We work with a lot of immigrant parents and help them integrate into the school system and applying for financial aid is one thing that is difficult when you’re not familiar with the systems in place in this country,” Flores said. “We don’t want parents to think that because they don’t speak English that their child will be left out. Families can become very frustrated when they don’t know the systems and we want to do what we can to make that entire process possible and simple.”
Flores spent more than six years as an elementary school principal with Brookside and Claremont elementary schools and 13 years in the Ossining School District. He said he saw hundreds of families come through every year that had difficulties learning the basics of American schooling.
“Getting to college and applying for the various assistance is a very important issue because it’s another aspect of succeeding in education that they don’t know about,” he said. “We need to let them know that the opportunity is there and it’s front of you so grab it and we’ll be here to help you along the way.”